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Truthdigger of the Week: Gen. William Odom

Truthdig tips its hat this week to William Odom, a retired three-star general who has proved his patriotism and loyalty to U.S. troops serving in Iraq by truly keeping their best interests at heart and advocating for their mental and physical well-being — as well as for their speedy and safe withdrawal from Iraq.

Odom, who has been making a case for withdrawal for years now, reiterated his message in a strong piece, succinctly titled ” ‘Supporting the troops’ means withdrawing them,” published Thursday on the Neiman Watchdog site. He opens his essay by explaining why Democrats have thus far been unable to win their battles in Congress for a withdrawal timetable:

“Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to ‘support the troops.’

“Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what ‘supporting the troops’ means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.”

Indeed. Odom goes on to criticize the military for forcing soldiers to serve increasingly lengthy and debilitating tours of duty, with precious little rehabilitation time and huge psychological repercussions:

“After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.

“And the damage is not just to enlisted soldiers. Many officers are suffering serious post-traumatic stress disorders but are hesitant to report it — with good reason. An officer who needs psychiatric care and lets it appear on his medical records has most probably ended his career. He will be considered not sufficiently stable to lead troops. Thus officers are strongly inclined to avoid treatment and to hide their problems.”

The general thus recommends that the public, which he believes has a clearer grasp of the situation in Iraq than the U.S. government does, rally to bring the troops home. What’s more, since he anticipates resistance from President Bush in particular, who has a vested interest in keeping the troops in Iraq until he is out of office, Odom recommends that such obstacles be met with a call for Bush’s impeachment, on the grounds that the president’s refusing to act in the best interest of American forces would “constitute the ‘high crime’ of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.”

Gen. Odom distinguished himself in many ways during his impressive career, but we think he is doing even more of a service to his country since his retirement by speaking out from a reasoned — and experienced — viewpoint about how we can all best support our troops at this juncture.

H/t to Pete Zacchino

More links:

Click here for a CommonDreams.org article about Odom.

Democracy Now! also did a piece on Odom in 2005.

Click here for background about Odom and his career.

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